The Profound Impact of a Penny

Raising the price of tomatoes by 1 cent a pound would change farmworkers’ lives. Trader Joe’s said no.

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Would you pay one penny more per pound to buy a tomato if you knew that it would go a long way toward alleviating labor abuse in the fields?

When asked that question, not a single supermarket chain in the country, with the notable exception of Whole Foods Market, said yes.

No grocery giant has a legitimate excuse to pinch that extra penny, but of all the holdouts, the most perplexing is Trader Joe’s, which promotes itself as a cheerful bastion of all things ethical.

A penny-a-pound wage increase might seem insignificant, but if you harvest Florida Tomatoes, it’s the difference between $50 a day and $80—the difference between a wage that doesn’t allow you to properly feed and shelter your family and a livable, albeit paltry, income.

Read the rest at Zester Daily. You’ll love the feisty comments.

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  1. This is another reason why I don’t support the chain stores. If they can’t take human life into consideration, I can’t take them into consideration.

  2. I look forward to reading this book. I also agree with Mike. I one day hope to be as sustainable as possible and grow/raise as much of my own food as possible. But, for items that I can’t grow I choose to shop at my local markets as much as possible. If I have to go to a chain store, I go to Vitamin Cottage, which is a Colorado-based health food store.

  3. Quinn says:

    I shopped at TJ’s for a while but it wasn’t long before the polish wore off the gilded lie-ly. For one it is claimed that none of the TJ’s products have this or that, which at the time was rBST/rGBH. Well, after buying a few dairy items I realized that wasn’t true and in asking about it, only those *branded* with “Trader Joe’s” (in an oddly generic twist) were without. That’s the fallback defense but not what they are covering with the illusion they weave that all products in the store are halo foods. Yet I know I was not the only one duped by that. I am positive they know what people are being led to believe, that it is indeed purposeful, and for that I dislike them even more. Truth is, much of it is mystery food with little to no story, or one that is weaved, made legendary, almost mythical when the truth is often just as ugly as any other corporate store.

    And people are absolutely horrified when something is said that isn’t glowing about TJ’s. I think because they believe they are doing good by shopping there instead of the only alternatives their myopia allows which is Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger. By saying TJ’s is not angelic they feel personally attacked and insulted.

    They do not want to hear it. They want to stay in denial. Knowing more would mean having to learn more, make changes that mean more effort, more money, more hassle; which even if true doesn’t account for how much better one feels both in conscience and health as well as the wellbeing of the people around them once one has broken out of the bind of denial.

    One thing that has worked for me is to stop thinking of those tomatoes as even being food. I’d decided several years ago that I didn’t like tomatoes anymore, pulling them off sandwiches, or salads in restaurants, eventually asking for no tomatoes. I couldn’t understand as I’d loved tomatoes as a child. Turns out I still do but real tomatoes are grown in season, close to home. The others just are not worth it. In learning about why tomatoes had somehow become a non-food I discovered the working conditions and greed which led me to give up fast food and corporate grocers. I’ve never been healthier or had more enjoyable foods. So in that way they did me a big personal favor. However, no apologies (such as that by Burger King) while welcome, will ever be enough to get me to go back to that life which requires such effort to even reach minimal standards. I am a former customer who is lost forever.

    BTW, no more dairy now either. :)

    It is mind-boggling though to realize how little is currently being paid for a penny to make such a difference and then to comprehend just how much each worker picks per day. Everyone should have to spend a week harvesting each and every food that gets to market. Not only would there be understanding, compassion would also be grown with the crop.

    For instance the best tippers are those who also work in food service.

    But in addition to gleaning understanding, it’s nearly criminal for most people to be so clueless about that which maintains their very life and is so intensely personal as food. We know more about sex than what most do much more often which is eat.

    Keep working it though. Maybe tap the TJ chocolate illusion next. :D

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